Gary Johnson announces support for same-sex marriage

Today Gary John­son, GOP can­di­date for Pres­i­dent in 2012, announced that he is updat­ing his posi­tion on same-sex mar­riages ver­sus civ­il unions. I sup­port the legal­iza­tion of same-sex mar­riage in my own state so over­all I’m pleased to hear this announce­ment. I am also a lit­tle con­cerned about the lan­guage Gov John­son used when he said that mar­riage should be up to indi­vid­u­als rather than the states.

I’d like to see the Defense of Mar­riage Act (DOMA) go away and I would like to see the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment rec­og­nize for tax and oth­er legal pur­pos­es any mar­riage that was legal in the state in which it was per­formed. But I’d like state leg­is­la­tures or the peo­ple of each state to make that call. If a state does not wish to issue mar­riage licens­es to same-sex cou­ples, I don’t think the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment ought dic­tate that they do. That seems almost as bad as DOMA.

I appre­ci­ate Gov John­son’s rhetoric con­cern­ing the role of gov­ern­ment, but as he is run­ning for Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States, I’d pre­fer that he not take a posi­tion one way or the oth­er on issues that the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment ought stay out of.

If we want lib­er­ty in our coun­try, the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment should respect the Tenth Amend­ment and take no posi­tion on states’ issues. Even though that means giv­ing pow­er to the states that can be used to restrict lib­er­ty, that is often prefer­able to the exer­cise of pow­er at the fed­er­al lev­el to restrict the states. Yes, the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment does exist in part to rein in the states when nec­es­sary, but this does­n’t seem to be an issue where there’s a clear (or even vague) fed­er­al man­date to decide the issue.

It’s true that the full faith and cred­it clause of the Con­sti­tu­tion (Arti­cle IV Sec­tion 1) could make things sticky between states that allow same-sex mar­riage and states that ban it, but this is an area where the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment does have a Con­sti­tu­tion­al man­date to leg­is­late the guide­lines for states to get along: that same Arti­cle IV Sec­tion 1 continues:

And the Con­gress may by gen­er­al laws pre­scribe the man­ner in which such acts, records, and pro­ceed­ings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.

So I’d like to see a politi­cian run­ning for fed­er­al office pro­pose a solu­tion to the inter­state issues rather than an endorse­ment or con­dem­na­tion of same-sex mar­riage. Instead of DOMA, why don’t we have fed­er­al leg­is­la­tion that spec­i­fies the extent to which states may or must rec­og­nize mar­riages per­formed in oth­er states. Such a law could state for exam­ple that any mar­riage from anoth­er state must be rec­og­nized for the pur­pos­es of deter­min­ing next-of-kin but that a state which does­n’t rec­og­nize same-sex mar­riage would not have to allow those cou­ples to file tax­es joint­ly. Or vice-ver­sa. Each state should be allowed the lat­i­tude to define mar­riage for itself, but the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment should guide the man­ner in which the states rec­og­nize one anoth­er’s mar­riages. That’s the kind of issue the Fed­er­al Gov­ern­ment should be involved in and the kind of solu­tions that a can­di­date for Pres­i­dent should be offering.

That said, «Gary John­son Announces Sup­port For the Tenth Amend­ment» does­n’t grab head­lines like «gay mar­riage» does. Gov John­son should do what he has to do to get the atten­tion of the Amer­i­can peo­ple. I’d just like to see a lit­tle more nuance in the para­graphs below the headline.

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